Abhishek at High Concept Labs


Name: Abhishek

Year: Sophomore

Major(s): Journalism

Minor(s): Theatre

CFS Program: Field Studies in Social Justice

In preparing for my weekend of documenting and interviewing artists and their process, I research and write information about them followed by writing interview questions. I added specific questions to learn about their art-making’s urgency and the affect they hope to have through their work.

On Friday, 21st April, I followed two sessions at my workplace’s artistic studio in Mana Contemporary— one with artist Amanda VanValkenburg and the other with theatre group “The Runaways”. The former is using computer created graphics inspired by abandoned buildings with the aim of creating an audience guided VR experience demolishing the buildings. She spoke specifically and passionately about how she’s able to portray emotion in something as seemingly mundane as buildings. The Runaways are producing Joyelle McSweeney’s “Dead Youth, or, The Leaks” that involves youth who have died around the world in violent circumstances including war and factories. I interviewed three performers and the director and their answers fascinated me. Their responses to the question “why do you create art” varied significantly. One artist acted in the play because a lot of the questions he personally grappled with were posed in the play; another artist spoke about acting to create counter narratives and being present as a female black performing artist to other female black kids growing up.

On Saturday 22nd April, I had three sessions- one interviewing teachers of the Neo-Futurists workshop, one interviewing artist Andy Slater at his studio and finally documenting a Post-Butoh festival on the theme of reparations.

The first session was in the Neo-Futurists’ theatre which was groovy! I liked the venue and got a good frame for my interviews. The two teachers emphasised the tenants of the Neo-Futurists aesthetic as performing with truthfulness, brevity and engagement with audiences.

Andy Slater’s studio was incredible- it was a multi-storied, creaky building with spaces for different artists including musicians and a block printing press. Vintage posters, kitchen equipment, and other items dressed the place aptly for art-making. Andy gave me a tour of the place and started working on his project.

The third session was filled with intense performances by various artists. Their ambitious theme, reparations was “about acts of recognition, bodily gestures toward processes of repairing or questioning the condition of being repaired, helming together and on our own, self-care, gestures toward awareness, empathy, forgiveness, grief and justice”. It was hard to be present during this session because I was exhausted and my focus was on capturing video rather than experiencing the pieces of work.